Georgia Opposition To Block Key Highways As Warning To President
May 04, 2009
Georgia's opposition said Monday it will block key highways in the country in an effort to step up pressure on President Mikhail Saakashvili after nearly a month of anti-government protests.
Opposition leader David Gamkrelidze told AFP protesters would block three major highways leading to the capital Tbilisi between 1600 and 1700 local time (1200 GMT to 1300 GMT) Tuesday and may later launch indefinite road blocks if Saakashvili refuses to resign.
He said Tuesday's action would be a "warning" to Saakashvili and would be followed by more road blocks on Friday.
"On May 8 we will block all traffic on motorways across Georgia and give Saakashvili an ultimatum to start talks on the technical details of his resignation within 72 hours," said Gamkrelidze, the leader of the New Rights party. "If he does not accept our demand we will consider the possibility of blocking traffic indefinitely in all of Georgia."
Georgia is a major transport artery between the Black Sea and states to the east such as oil-rich Azerbaijan and the Central Asian states. Russia took control of parts of the main east-west highway for several weeks last year as the two countries went to war over the separatist region of South Ossetia.
Opposition supporters have already been blocking key roads in Tbilisi for weeks in a bid to force Saakashvili to resign.
Police, who have so far not interfered with the protests, said they were waiting to see how things developed.
"We will not comment on this for the moment. We will see how processes develop and act accordingly," Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said.
The protests have been the biggest and longest demonstrations against Saakashvili's rule since last year's war with Russia, but the number of participants has steadily dwindled after peaking at 60,000 when protests started April 9.
Protesters have set up dozens of mock jail outside some government buildings and blocked central streets.
Opponents accuse Saakashvili of mishandling the August war with Russia and of becoming increasingly autocratic since he came to power after the peaceful 2003 Rose Revolution.
Copyright (c) 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.